I remember the day my Mom sold her sky blue Volkswagen Beetle. She was visibly heartbroken. But with that sacrifice, she bought our family’s first computer. I was nine years old and she was starting grad school. I still can’t believe she knocked out her thesis on that Apple IIe, complete with 5¼” floppy disc drive and a monitor about the size of a dime-store fishbowl.
Nine years later, I took my high school graduation gift with me to college. It was an Apple IIe. By then the monitor had grown and the floppy disc drive was a more reasonable 3½”. That was nearly 20 years ago and the world was on the precipice of fast and furious change.
When I started college, there was no Google or YouTube. There was barely an Internet. Research consisted of hours spent digging through card catalogues and periodical indexes. It was tedious. In class, we took notes in long hand. Again, tedious. But, as I spent time learning the old-fashioned way, the dot-com bubble was growing, and by the time I graduated it was ready to burst.
We all recovered from the rise and fall of the dot-coms, but change continued. When I went back to grad school five years ago (a featherweight laptop tucked under arm) I walked into an educational utopia. Hours of library research had been replaced by minutes of clicking through a worldwide database – from the comfort my own bedroom! If I missed class or needed a refresher, I downloaded lecture notes, podcasts, and sometimes, actual video recordings. Will wonders never cease? Seriously, how did we survive before the Internet? I think this thought any time I Google, well, anything.
So, yeah, the technological sea change has been swift, and has yet to ebb. By 2008, Internet video providers began to make their mark, and Academic Earth was there to jump on the bandwagon. Founder, Richard Ludlow, saw a real opportunity to aggregate free online college courses, opening up education to the masses. Since then, open courseware has spread and we’ve seen the rise of MOOCs. The democratization of higher education is on the march – and for good reason.
This year alone, the federal government is reported to be on track to earn $51 billion in profit off of student loans. This is outrageous. As students get priced out of school and look for creative ways to earn an education, sans the crippling financial burden, a new wave of dot-coms look for ways to innovate, drive down the cost, and deliver education to any and all.
Today, in the continued spirit of granting everyone access to a world-class education, Academic Earth launches anew, ready to meet the challenges of a shifting educational landscape. While we continue our efforts to deliver a comprehensive collection of free online courses from the best universities, we strive to do more. Let’s start a conversation, and together, rethink education. More change is on the horizon. Will you be there to embrace it?